Q&A #5: Clerk Magistrate For Life

"carneycourt" asks: 

Why does the Clerk Magistrate of Hingham Court (and others) have lifetime tenure? Why can't we get rid of the loafers?

First of all, it is unfair to call the holders of Massachusetts's eighty five statutorily-created clerk-magistrate positions "loafers." Loafers are shoes that are chosen for their ability to properly serve their function, and which can be replaced when they get old and useless.

I don't know this as any sort of fact or anything, but I have always assumed that there are two simple reasons the Commonwealth includes these positions, along with judges, as lifetime appointments: 1) Because every governor has some people he owes appointments to who would never last in a position where you can actually be fired; and 2) Because every legislator has some people he owes appointments to who could never be taken on except by somebody who can never be fired. (See this Jack Sullivan story in CommonWealth last year.) 

Like I say, that's just a guess.

My understanding is that in more recent times there has been a greater tendency to appoint people who, for example, have ever seen the inside of a courtroom before, or have maybe even enrolled in law school at some point in their lives. So, there's progress. I guess.


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